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How much will I need to put aside?
Many experts' rule of thumb is 10 percent of your income, but it varies based on a few key factors.
1. How many years you have left to work
2. What type of retirement lifestyle you want and how much it will potentially cost
3. You may need more than you think: Inflation may shrink the value of your money
Where will I put the funds?
These are employer-sponsored retirement investment accounts that you contribute to pre-tax, which may lower your overall taxable income. Employers may match some or all of the funds you contribute.
A traditional pension offers a defined benefit. That means it gives you a fixed, predictable payout in retirement, usually based on years of service and salary. An employer contributes to a pension for you; they're less common in non-government jobs.
<illustration copy>IRA</illustration copy>
Individual retirement accounts are set up and funded by you, not an employer. Contributions may be tax-deductible.
<illustration copy>ROTH IRA</illustration copy>
Roth IRAs are a type of individual retirement account: You contribute money after taxes, but when you withdraw the money in retirement, it's generally federal tax-free.
<illustration copy>Roy’s Autobody</illustration copy>
SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It may be used if you're self-employed, freelance or a small-business owner, and has higher contribution limits than a traditional IRA.
What about the Blended Retirement System and my TSP?
Beginning in 2018, the military introduced a new Blended Retirement System that combines an annuity for those who retire with more than 20 years of service and matching contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan.
The Thrift Savings Plan is the federal government’s version of a 401(k), and you may have enrolled during service. If so, you have a number of options, including leaving the account as is or rolling it over into a new employer 401(k) plan or an IRA. Before rolling over your TSP, you may want to talk with a financial professional about your choices.
Each choice may offer different investment options and services, fees, expenses and rules. These are complex choices. Before rolling over your TSP, take time to compare plans.
What lingo do I need to know?
Some of the terminology associated with retirement accounts can be intimidating. Here are some basics to get you started.
You can generally invest in a variety of things, such as stocks, bonds and cash. Holding a variety of investments is called diversifying. The goal is to protect your portfolio: If one asset does poorly, others may not. However, diversifying your investments is not a guarantee against potential losses.
When your account makes money, those earnings are reinvested, so not only might your original investment earn returns, your earnings may, too. The earlier you invest, the more opportunity your money has to compound. Note that investments can lose money.
Many investment accounts are managed by people or firms, and their services are usually paid for by the investor (you) via fees. Choosing an account with lower fees could potentially save you money over the life of your investment.
If you're starting a full- or part-time job, talk to the human resources department about account choices. You may also want to consult with a financial professional about a strategy to fit your family's needs and goals.